O'Neill 2015

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O'Neill, Lindsay. The Opened Letter: Networking in the Early Modern British World. Philadelphia: Penn Press, 2015.

moving from a few hundred to a few thousand letters — “Then letters truly begin to speak, and they whisper of the need for large, elaborate, and multipurpose networks. This book analyzes such networks, and the letters that created them, at the critical period between the establishment of a permanent national postal system in 1660, which provided many Britons with a new and more constant way to keep in touch, and the flourishing of the newspaper press in the middle of the 18c, which gave the British another way to monitor the world. More specifically, I reassemble and listen to the hum of a number of individual and interlocking epistolary networks constructed by a disparate group of letter writers whose collective efforts illuminate the structure and working sou the British world socially, geographically, and communicatively at a time when the nation was becoming a dominant world power. It was during this period that the British elite truly became a networking society.” (2)

“Networks allow us to follow people rather than institutions or states.” (5)

for social historians, “networks explain the texture of local society”; other historians “use the word network to explain how groups of individuals coalesced around an idea, belief, or interest” (6)

bringing together the study of social networks and networks of interest

“The early modern British world was a networking society, not a society with networks. Webs of connection were not static entities, but active and changeable organisms. This is where social network analysis becomes useful once again. With it we can visually reconstitute these different networks and explain how they functioned, worked together, and changed. It emphasizes their different shapes and sizes, their interlinked nature, and their dynamic existence. The static image of the network as a web needs to be picked arhat, analyzed, and set in motion.” (7)

“An examination of networks blurs the borders between the modern and the premodern worlds, between public and private spheres.” (8)